Those of you who have read me for awhile can probably guess the answer to any question I posit that begins with, “Is it okay to . . .?”
Yeah, the answer’s probably yes, unless the question is something like,
“Is it okay to walk up to a complete stranger and tell them that they look ugly in purple?” But then, I probably wouldn’t entitle a post like that, choosing instead, something like Nasty, Biting — Unintentional — Things We Say.
But all things considered, the answer is probably yes, as it is to today’s question, “Is it okay to talk to the grave of your loved one?”
This question occurred to me as I was making spaghetti last night, which isn’t as random as it sounds, really, because my spaghetti sauce is loosely based upon a recipe of my father’s (Shockingly Simple Spaghetti Sauce); my father is in a better place right now; but I miss him, so when I’m in town where the cemetery is, I drop by and visit his grave.
Sometimes, I talk to him.
I tell him about the Norwegian Artist’s Santa paintings; Tired of Being Youngest’s forays into the culinary world; College Girl’s brave standing up in a group and facing down the bully who happened to be her boss.
Other times, we sit in companionable silence, in much the same way we did when he was alive. His grave overlooks a field of trees, a meadow of reflection on the life of a good man, and the legacy he left behind. Always, always, I end the visit with, “I love you, Dad.”
Sorcery versus Talking
I know he’s dead. I also know that God gives us pretty firm instructions to not to practice divination and sorcery (Leviticus 20: 26), and that it was a definite no-no for Saul to seek counsel with the spirit of Samuel in 1 Samuel 28.
There is a wall of some sort separating those of us on earth from those of us who have fallen asleep, and we are expressly told to not attempt to scale that wall. (Leviticus 19:31 — “Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord Your God.”)
But the emotion of relationships does not abruptly end when another person’s breath does, and it can be part of the grieving process to talk to the person we can no longer sit in the same room with. At a time when we’re hurting, the last thing we need is someone telling us that we are evil because we look up heavenwards and say something like,
“You would have enjoyed this movie. It was a good one.”
So if you find yourself, like me, visiting a loved one’s grave and chatting, here are a few thoughts to ruminate on:
Quit Beating up on Yourself
1) Don’t flagellate yourself for talking to someone you love and miss. God’s there right beside you, and He hears what you’re saying and can pass on the message somehow.
2) While talking’s fine, seeking wisdom from this person, or praying to them for answers, isn’t particularly wise. God tells us in Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before me,” meaning that He, and He alone, is the one we worship, seek guidance from, and pray to.
3) Time heals wounds, although scars generally remain. When grief is fresh, we are more likely to visit the grave site, if there is one, and talk to the departed. As time goes by, we need this less and less, and that’s not only okay, it’s preferable. It’s hard to keep up a conversation with someone who can’t converse back, and the only one from the spiritual world with whom we can do this, is God (see point 2).
Transition Back to the Land of the Living
4) Remember the living. We’ll never stop missing someone we loved very much, and it’s absurd for people to suggest that this is so. At the same time, there are others who knew this person as well — perhaps are hurting as much or more than we are over the loss — and sometimes we can find solace in one another.
5) When something no longer works, move on. I find myself talking less and less to my father, and more and more about him. While his physical presence is no longer here, his legacy — through his words, his actions, his stories, and his spaghetti sauce — lives on, and I honor his memory by incorporating these into my own life and passing them on.
Hebrews 12: 1 mentions our being surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses” of people who no longer walk on the ground we do; Matthew 17: 3 reports Moses and Elijah, appearing on a mountain top, talking with Jesus — so when people die, they still exist, just in a different place. Much more than that, we really don’t know anything.
Death is a horrible thing, and it wrenches the lives of those left behind. If talking to the person lost helps, let it, and don’t add guilt to the burden of grief.
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